The Cabinet Office’s hire of Matt Tee as permanent secretary for government communications, revealed on Tuesday by PRWeek.com, has come as a surprise to many.
A more high-profile choice was expected, with Department of Health (DH) director of comms Sian Jarvis long thought to be the favourite. Former Foreign and Commonwealth Office comms director Lucian Hudson is believed to have been considered earlier in the process.
Tee will move to the role early next year from NHS Direct, where he is chief executive.
He replaces Howell James, who vacated the permanent secretary job after four years in June to become corporate affairs director at Barclays.
Tee said: ‘Leading government comms and helping ensure customer insight is at the centre of policy formation is a fantastic opportunity.’
Tee will succeed acting permanent secretary Alan Bishop, who has been handling the role in addition to his job as chief executive of the Central Office of Information.
Bishop starts work as chief executive for the South Bank Centre in April next year.
Tee was acting director of comms at the DH while Jarvis was on maternity leave in 2006 and 2007. He has also been director of news at the Department of Trade and Industry (now BERR).
A 2006 PRWeek profile described Tee as ‘an unashamed Cockney who was a punk rock fan in his younger days, bleaching his hair while at Leeds University in the 1980s’.
Tee told PRWeek at the time: ‘The thing about getting older is that you get a sense of perspective and are less easily knocked by things.’
Tee’s departure date from NHS Direct has yet to be agreed.
The permanent secretary for government comms is responsible for strategy, co-ordination and effectiveness of government comms across Whitehall
The creation of the post was one of the key changes recommended by the Phillis Review
The House of Lords comms committee is currently conducting an inquiry into government comms